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Steve Yzerman wisely avoiding making promises with Red Wings

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DETROIT — Steve Yzerman is not making any promises about quickly being able to turn around the Detroit Red Wings.

That’s probably a good idea.

Yzerman, who earned a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame for his play in Detroit, is entering his first season as the general manager of a franchise plodding through a rebuilding project.

The Red Wings have failed to make the playoffs for three straight years, following a run of 25 straight postseasons that included four Stanley Cup titles. Detroit’s drought is expected to extend through Yzerman’s debut season in charge of the front office Ken Holland led for two-plus decades.

”It just takes time, ”Yzerman said. ”I can’t tell you in three years we’re going to be this. In five years, we’re going to be this.”

The Red Wings appear to have a handful of promising players, including center Dylan Larkin, but they still seem to be at least another year away from being talented enough to earn a spot in the postseason.

”This is year two or three where we’re pegged to be a bottom-five team in the NHL,” Larkin said. ”To me, that stings a little bit.”

Detroit opens the season Oct. 5 at Nashville.

WHO’S HERE

Yzerman did not attempt to make a splash in free agency, figuring a high-priced free agent wouldn’t suddenly turn the team into a contender. Yzerman did add 35-year-old center Valtteri Filppula, who he signed away from the Red Wings in 2013 when he was leading Tampa Bay after the Finn was drafted and developed in Detroit. Yzerman acquired another familiar face in August, trading a fourth-round pick next year to the Lightning for 24-year-old winger Adam Erne. Patrik Nemeth, who has 250 games of NHL experience, was also signed to bolster the blue line.

WHO’S NOT

Detroit lost some depth on the backend when Niklas Kronwall decided to retire. The team chose not to bring back 35-year-old winger Thomas Vanek, creating more opportunities for younger players. Holland agreed to step down as general manager to clear the way for Yzerman’s hire before leaving to lead Edmonton’s front office.

KEY PLAYERS

Detroit’s top two lines have to be spectacular for this to be a surprising season. Larkin is coming off a career-high, 73-point season. He is expected to center the top line with Anthony Mantha, who had a career-high 25 goals last season, and Tyler Bertuzzi, coming off a career-high, 47-point season. Andreas Athanasiou is back at wing after the speedy player was a center last year and the team needs him to make the transition smooth.

The Red Wings are desperately hoping Mike Green, Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson can stay healthy to make up for the veteran presence lost when Kronwall decided to be an adviser for Yzerman instead of playing for him. They would be pleasantly surprised if 19-year-old winger Filip Zadina, drafted No. 6 overall last year, is ready to contribute on the third line.

Detroit decided to keep a standby in net, signing Jimmy Howard to a one-year contract extension. He has 244 victories since Detroit drafted him in 2003 and he gives the team its best chance to win this season.

OUTLOOK

Red Wings fans have been clamoring for Yzerman to come back to lead the franchise. They got what they wanted, but Yzerman isn’t going to be able to make miracles happen with a team that doesn’t have much offense after its top two lines and a defense that is average at best. Coach Jeff Blashill acknowledged the organization has to be surprised by many of its players to speed up the turnaround.

PREDICTION

Detroit seems destined to win a little more than 30 games for a fourth straight season. Yzerman retained Blashill, who was given a two-year contract last spring, but there may be a change on the bench by this time next year.

Shattenkirk joins Lightning on one-year deal

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Four days after the New York Rangers bought out the final two years of his contract, Kevin Shattenkirk has found a new team.

Shattenkirk’s new home is a familiar one for former Rangers with the 30-year-old defenseman signing a one-year, $1.75 million deal with the Lightning on Monday. He now joins Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Brian Boyle, Anton Stralman, Ryan Callahan, and J.T. Miller as ex-Blueshirts who wound up in Tampa — a.k.a. Rangers South — in the last few years.

In 73 games last season Shattenkirk scored twice and recorded 28 points while battling through the aftermath of knee surgery and nights in the press box as a healthy scratch.

“It’s definitely not a success story,” Shattenkirk said on a Monday conference call. “A lot of these things, they have to be learning experiences.”

The Lightning nearly had Shattenkirk two years ago at the NHL Trade Deadline, but the then-St. Louis Blues defenseman vetoed a deal because he wanted to test the free agent market and not sign an extension before July 1. He was then dealt to Washington before signing a four-year, $26.6 million deal with the Rangers that summer.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

Due to Shattenkirk’s buyout, the Rangers will have $1.433 million on their cap until the end of the 2022-23 NHL season and owe him a $2 million signing bonus next July 1. Per Cap Friendly, the Lightning are a little over $9 million from the cap ceiling with only restricted free agents Adam Erne and Brayden Point left to re-sign. That number could rise some once general manager Julien BriseBois figures out their goalie situation with Andrei Vasilevskiy and Louis Domingue and summer acquisitions Curtis McElhinney and Mike Condon. There’s also a move or two for BriseBois to make on the the blue line as it’s now a bit crowded after bringing back Braydon Coburn and Jan Rutta, as well as signing Luke Schenn, who could very well be AHL-bound.

It’s a good signing for both sides. The Lightning take a low-risk gamble on Shattenkirk hoping he can find his offensive form while not feeling the pressure of having to be one of the big contributors on the blue line. For Shattenkirk, he gets a season on a loaded team to find his game again in hopes of being able to cash in next summer in free agency.

“I think I have a huge chip on my shoulder right now,” said Shattenkirk. “I want to show I’m back to my old self and prove that I can be a player in this league again.”

MORE: Shattenkirk’s New York homecoming ends with buyout

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Lightning offload Callahan’s cap hit to Senators

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have ensured they will have the money to spare on Brayden Point‘s next contract.

Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois offloaded forward Ryan Callahan‘s contract on Tuesday, shedding $5.8 million in cap space along with it in a deal with the Ottawa Senators.

In exchange for taking on the final year of Callahan’s deal, Ottawa gets a fifth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. The Senators, meanwhile, send goalie Mike Condon and a sixth-round pick in 2020 to Tampa.

Callahan will not play for the Senators after a career-ending degenerative back disease was discovered this past season. That means that insurance will pick up 80% of the salary ($3.76 million) and Ottawa will only be responsible for $940,000 of it.

BriseBois was optimistic on Monday, saying a deal with Point will likely get done prior to the opening of training camp.

That seems increasingly accurate now that Callahan is off the books. The Lightning could have placed him on long-term injury reserve themselves, allowing them to go over the cap by his $5.8 million cap hit.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

With Condon coming the other way, the Lightning presently have $8.9 million, per Cap Friendly, to sign both Point and fellow restricted free agent Adam Erne.

They also have four goalies on their roster, with Condon, Andrei Vasilevsky, Curtis McElhinney, and Louis Domingue. Condon or Domingue will be a surplus to requirements. Condon carries a $2.4 million cap hit next season while Domingue is at $1.15 million.

If buried, CapFriendly says Condon’s cap hit would drop to $1.325 million.

Either way, the Lightning now have room for both their RFAs without much worry.

MORE: Lightning ‘optimistic’ in Point deal before training camp

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Lightning ‘optimistic’ in Point deal before training camp

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(UPDATE: The Lightning have freed up more room by sending Ryan Callahan’s cap hit to the Senators.)

At the present, they have roughly $5.5 million in salary cap space and a 40-goal, 90-point restricted free agent to sign, and the Tampa Bay Lightning are certain they’ll get him under contract before training camp begins.

Brayden Point is worth a whole heck of a lot of money and the Lightning don’t have that much to give at the moment, but general manager Julien BriseBois is optimistic nonetheless that a deal will be hatched before the middle of September.

“I fully expect to get it done before the start of training camp,” BriseBois said via NHL.com on Monday. “I don’t have a precise timeline. I feel very optimistic, but I don’t have any new information with regards to the Brayden Point contract.”

Easier said than done, as they say.

The Lightning have a nice cap crunch to deal with and a player of Point’s caliber, even if bridged, is worth more than what they currently have to spend (and they still need to pay Adam Erne, even if it’s around $1 million a season on his own bridge deal.)

But perceived worth and contract actuality are not one and the same. If this summer has taught us anything, it’s that very good players can sign on for very cheap deals. We see you, Kevin Labanc.

Of course, that’s a pretty extreme example of doing your team a solid. And Point isn’t the same player. He’s much better, so don’t expect that here.

Sure, there’s still a world where Point signs an uber-friendly bridge deal. But at $5.5 million? Probably not. Evolving Wild’s model has a two-year deal worth $1 million more than that. A three-year bridge? They have it pegged at over $7 million a season. He’s projected to get a five-year, $8 million contract using their formula. Even that might seem a little low for the 23-year-old.

Even in Florida, where there is no state income tax, Point will get more.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

The Lightning do have some reprieve, however. Despite there being some work to do to get Point’s contract done, they can essentially double the money they have to work with by putting Ryan Callahan on long-term-injured reserve.

That makes the situation disappear, for the time being, as it frees up $5.8 million in the process and allowing the Lightning to exceed the cap limit by that much. They can sign Point to whatever term/money makes sense and still fit under the cap.

And if BriseBois’s optimism surprises you, it shouldn’t. If any team can figure out how to keep some very, very good players happy financially, short-term and long-term and under the cap ceiling while remaining competitive, it’s the Lightning — even without Steve Yzerman.

They did it with Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov and also with Vezina winner Andrei Vasilevsky, who became a very rich man on Monday.

“What I will say is there are all of these players that signed shorter deals coming out of their entry-level contracts who all ended up signing long-term deals and were able to stick with our organization, whether it’s Tyler Johnson or Ondrej Palat or Alex Killorn.” BriseBois said. “It’s worked out for all of them and it’s worked out for the organization. We’ve been able to keep a lot of great players in their prime.”

Next step: not getting swept up in the first round after a record regular season. And then sort out how you’re going to navigate the salary cap once again next offseason, where the Lightning already have $66.7 million committed to 13 players, and that doesn’t include whatever contract Point signs.

MORE: Jets, Lightning still face big RFA challenges

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Jets, Lightning still have big RFA challenges to deal with

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This year’s restricted free agent market has been one of the most intriguing ones we have seen in years. Not only is it loaded with players that already among the league’s best, but we already saw an offer-sheet come in when the Montreal Canadiens attempted to snag Sebastien Aho away from the Carolina Hurricanes. It was an offer that was quickly matched by the Hurricanes. As things stand on Saturday, Aho is the only one of those top RFA’s that has a new contract while Mikko Rantanen, Mitch Marner, Brayden Point, Patrick Laine, Charlie McAvoy, Zach Werenski, Brock Boeser, and Kyle Connor (among others) all remain unsigned, and will probably remain so for the foreseeable future.

Some of these situations will easily get resolved. The Avalanche have more salary cap space than any team in the league and no other significant contracts to work out, so while Rantanen will get a huge pay raise, the Avalanche have more than enough space to work it out. The same is true in Columbus with Werenski where they still have more than $15 million in cap space after their free agent exodus.

Beyond them, most of the focus with the RFA market has been pointed in Toronto’s direction where the Maple Leafs have to re-sign Marner and (hopefully) avoid a repeat of last year’s William Nylander situation. But for as complicated as the Marner contract has been and still might be, the Maple Leafs still have more than $10 million in LTIR contracts to stash at the start of the season with David Clarkson and Nathan Horton.

It is going to be difficult, but it may not even be the most difficult one in the league.

Here are four teams that might have might even more headaches to deal with.

Winnipeg Jets

Good news: The Jets have more salary cap space ($17 million) than all but one team in the league, which would seem to put them in a really good position under the cap.

Bad news: As of Saturday they only have 17 players under contract for the 2019-20 season (no other team in the league has less than 19) and have two major RFA’s in need of new deals in Laine and Connor.

Laine is already one of the NHL’s most lethal goal scorers and is coming off a 30-goal season that was universally considered to be a “down” year for him, while Connor has scored at least 30 goals himself two years in a row. There have only been 17 players to top the 30-goal mark in each of the past two seasons, and the Jets not only have two of them, but they are both in need of new contracts right now.

Unless one (or both) is willing to take a significant discount on their next deal the duo is likely to cost the Jets at least $14 million against the salary cap. Those two deals are going to eat up almost all of their remaining cap space while they still have to fill out a roster around them. Even with some free agent departures this summer the Jets are still in a position where they are going to have to do some juggling to keep their two best young players.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning already had one of the deepest forward groups in the league even before Brayden Point was one of the league’s big breakout stars during the 2018-19 season.

Now that he has joined their core of top-tier players, the time has come to pay him. The Lightning have roughly $5 million in salary cap space this summer, which will obviously not be enough to pay a 22-year-old winger coming off of a 40-goal, 90-point season whose best days are still ahead of him. They will be placing Ryan Callahan on LTIR, giving them another $5 million to work with and that will certainly help in the short-term. Point won’t be a $10 million player, but the Lightning also have an upcoming arbitration situation with Adam Erne and three more significant RFA’s next summer (starting goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, forward Anthony Cirelli, and defender Mikhail Sergachev). All of that is going to add up, and you have to wonder if it might make a forward like Alex Killorn (four more years at $4.45 million per season) expendable.

Vancouver Canucks

This is an underrated and overlooked nightmare situation. The Canucks three-highest paid players are Loui Eriksson, Tyler Myers, and a 33-year-old Alexander Edler (all making $6 million per year), while they also have around $14 million going to the quartet of Brandon Sutter, Tanner Pearson, Antoine Roussel and Jay Beagle. A classic case of a bunch of small mistakes adding up to one big headache that hurts a team in trying to keep its stars. They only have $5 million in salary cap space to re-sign Boeser, their second best player and one of the best young snipers in the league. That is not enough. They need to move as many of the aforementioned contracts as they can, not only to help re-sign Boeser this summer, but to improve their long-term outlook as well.

Boston Bruins

The Bruins’ roster is almost entirely set for the 2019-20 season with two big exceptions: Defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. The Bruins have roughly $7 million in salary cap space to make it happen, but that is going to be tight. Like Werenski in Columbus, McAvoy has earned a substantial contract extension with his play. Carlo may not be a star, but he is a rock-solid defender that needs re-signed. Together, they might cost at least $10 million. Shedding one of David Backes, Charlie Coyle, Kevan Miller, or John Moore would help.

More NHL Offseason:
Bruins face salary cap juggling act with McAvoy, Carlo
Long-term contracts for depth players is usually losing move for NHL teams
Cap Crunch: Rangers, Penguins, Flames among teams that still need moves

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.